Communities working to improve outcomes for people with mental disorders in contact with the criminal justice system can benefit greatly from a better understanding of the experiences of colleagues from across the country. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center regularly features profiles and news articles about JMHCP grantees and other criminal justice and behavioral health programs—you may subscribe to receive updates. Additionally, the National Criminal Justice Initiatives Map provides information about recipients of federal funding related to reentry and recidivism reduction across the country.
One common denominator among all strategies that provide a response to this problem is a commitment to collaboration between at least one criminal justice and one mental health agency. Chapter Five of the Consensus Project Report provides recommendations for improving collaboration. The CSG Justice Center's Advocacy Handbook provides useful strategies for reaching out to different stakeholder agencies and groups.
The GAINS Center has developed fact sheets and detailed discussion papers on six evidence-based practices and how they can be applied in criminal justice settings. Three of the evidence-based practices are particularly relevant for individuals transitioning from jail or prison into the community: Assertive Community Treatment, evidence-based housing programs, and supported employment.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has funded two groups to develop screening instruments for jails. Both instruments have psychometric properties, with low rates of false positives and false negatives that allow for the detection of individuals who warrant additional assessment for mental disorders. The Brief Jail Mental Health Screen, developed by Policy Research Associates, can be used as a screening instrument for both men and women. The Correctional Mental Health Screen, developed by researchers at the University of Connecticut, provides separate instruments for men and women. See NIJ's Mental Health Screens for Corrections to learn more about the instruments.
As part of its technical assistance work in this area, the CSG Justice Center has developed detailed case studies of corrections/mental health collaboration in several jurisdictions. One case study describes what leaders of the Departments of Corrections and the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services in Kansas have done together to improve the likelihood of safe and successful transitions from prison to the community for individuals with mental illness. The Orange County, Florida case study describes the experiences of county jail staff and community providers collaborating to design post-booking diversion options.
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, together with the CSG Justice Center, has developed a Collaboration Assessment Tool to help justice and mental health organizations assess their existing level of collaboration.
Outcome data can be of enormous value to mental health courts in their efforts to demonstrate the initial promise of their approach and garner long-term support as well as make data-driven program modifications. A Guide to Collecting Mental Health Court Outcome Data provides practical strategies for obtaining and analyzing data. It also identifies challenges that mental health courts often face during the data collection process and ways in which to overcome them.
Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum is a free online multimedia curriculum for individuals and teams seeking to start, maintain, or just learn about mental health courts. Developed by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center with the support of BJA, it is the first single resource with the information teams need to translate current research on mental health courts into program design and operation. Other resources dedicated to the planning and implementation of mental health court programs include, The Guide to Mental Health Court Design and Implementation which describes different steps planners will encounter when launching a mental health court and addresses issues such as determining whether a mental health court is the most appropriate court-based program for a jurisdiction, selecting a screening mechanism for potential court participants, and sustaining a court's operation. The Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court builds upon the Guide by describing ten features—identified by leading experts and informed by hundreds of practitioners—as critical to establishing and sustaining a mental health court. See the Mental Health section of the CSG Justice Center site for resources that are responsive to needs expressed by practitioners.
At each juncture of the criminal justice process-from before arrest to after release from a correctional facility-there are steps that you can take to improve the response to people with mental illnesses in your community. The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project Report (Consensus Project Report) provides more than 100 recommendations, endorsed by law enforcement, judges, advocates, consumers, and corrections officials, for addressing the problem at different stages of the criminal justice process. See “A Person with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System: A Flowchart of Select Events,” located on page 25 of the Consensus Project Report for specific information.